The Effect Of Luxury On Human Behavior

New research tries to explain the connection between luxury and self-interest.

New research by Prof. Roy Y.J. Chua of Harvard and Prof. Xi Zou of the London Business School gives some clues on the psychology of people surrounded by luxury goods.

The researchers performed a series of experiments with a volunteer group, half of which was primed to think about luxury and the other half was not. The results showed that the luxury primed participants were more self-interested and less concerned about others. This research, which is still being conducted, aims to help understand the decision making process of the well-off.

Roy Chua explains the process:

In the first experiment, participants were asked to answer a series of business-related decision-making questions that were designed to tap the extent to which people place self-interests (profit maximization for one’s firm) above society interests. An example involved asking participants how likely they are to endorse the manufacturing of a new model of car that could bring in enormous profit but could potentially pollute the environment. Before answering these questions, half of the participants were asked to evaluate luxury products, while the other half evaluated cheaper equivalents. We found that people who were made to think about luxury prior to the decision-making task have a higher tendency to endorse self-interested decisions that might potentially harm others.

…This pattern of findings suggests that luxury-primed individuals were not more likely to have anti-social cognition, but were less likely to have pro-social thoughts. In other words, when thinking about luxury, people tend to focus more on themselves and less on others.

Harvard Business School Working Knowledge: “The ‘Luxury Prime': How Luxury Changes People”

image by inju

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